Dr. Beau Hightower is the man that keeps Jackson Wink’s fighters healthy. His diverse background and education allows him to use a wide variety of treatments to keep their team healthy, moving and ready to compete.
In this Episode We Discuss:
- Common injuries and ailments
- Treating the individual
- Working at Jackson Wink in New Mexico
- Keeping athletes healthy
- Clear communication with coaches and athletes
- Hips and Low Back Issues
- and more!
A native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Dr. Hightower earned the first of three Bachelor of Science degrees in Biology from the University of New Mexico. Subsequent Bachelor of Science degrees in Anatomy, followed by Health and Wellness were earned. Dr. Hightower graduated with honors from Parker University where he earned his DC degree. His Sports Medicine Residency was completed in Bogota, Colombia where he treated the country’s Olympic athletes at the Coldeportes training facility.
“Dr. H” graduated with the highest honors from California University where he earned a Masters degree in Rehabilitation Sciences. He is currently an instructor at Southwest University of Naprapathic Medicine where he educates future doctors.
Dr. Hightower has been recognized as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the Commission of the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Continuing his post-graduate education, Dr. Hightower has also been recognized by The National Academy of Sports Medicine as a Corrective Exercise Specialist.
He has successfully treated NFL players, major league baseball players, national champion NCAA wrestlers, champion UFC fighters, Ironman triathletes, elite marathon runners, Olympic athletes, and IFBB professional bodybuilders. He is the sports medicine doctor for Jackson’s MMA and was recently appointed to the medical staff for the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
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Full Transcription of Our Podcast with Beau Hightower
Interview with Dr. Beau Hightower the Therapist for New Mexico’s Best Fight Team talking about training mistakes
Corey Beasley [00:00:01]: Hey guys, is Corey Beasley with fight camp conditioning. And today I’m on the phone with Dr. Beau Hightower. Beau, how are you doing?
Beau Hightower [00:00:07]: I am doing well. I’m awesome. It’s a glad to be on here and looking forward to having a good conversation with you about therapy, conditioning, all things MMA related.
Corey Beasley [00:00:16]: Yeah. Well so for everybody that’s listening well give him a little two sense of who you are and what you’re doing?
Beau Hightower [00:00:25]: Okay. Some of you guys may know who I am. I’m the therapist that Jackson Wink MMA. So I keep most of your favorite fighters healthy. We work with Holly Holm, John Jones. I’ve worked with BJ Penn, Johnny Hendricks Cody Garbrandt. I’ve worked with a whole lot of UFC champions, former champions in the past. And basically what we do is we do a lot of soft tissue work, different types of therapies, modalities. We want to make sure we get your fighters to the octagon and as safely and as healthy as possible.
Corey Beasley [00:00:50]: Right on. So Beau, how’d you kind of, as far as getting started as a therapist, where’d you get educated? I’ve worked, where did you get started?
Beau Hightower [00:01:00]: So my undergraduate degrees are, I’ve got a bachelor’s degree in biology, a bachelor’s degree in anatomy, a bachelor’s degree in health and wellness. My master’s degree is in exercise science and I also have my CSCs and then my doctorate degrees are in chiropractic medicine and Naprapathic medicine. So I’ve got a lot of different educational input from a whole lot of different places. So it basically helps me to evaluate a patient or a fighter from all different angles so I can look at what they’re doing training wise and also give my two sense while working concurrently with nutritionists and trainers on what’s the best possible way to train a fighter for a fight so that they don’t get injured and if they do have an injury, how can we work around that to the point where they can still get there, make money, entertain the fans and be healthy at the same time.
Corey Beasley [00:01:45]: Yeah. But that’s cool. You got the both sides of the coin, at least from an education standpoint. Because it does. And you can relate well with all parties involved, right?
Beau Hightower [00:01:55]: That’s the goal. We want to be able to get them the proper care, even if that’s not with us, if we have to refer them somewhere else, if we have to get them to a surgeon, whatever we have to do to get them the right care, that’s our goal. We want to make sure that the fighter’s health is first and foremost and they don’t have any more long-term repercussions than is necessary.
Corey Beasley [00:02:13]: So an athlete, one of the boys or girls come in and see you, the athletes come in and see you. Where you start?
Beau Hightower [00:02:22]: Well, it depends what it is, right? So sometimes we may have to order an XRay. Sometimes it may be an overuse injury. So one of the most common ones we see in MMA is anterior shoulder pain. Just from too many one two is too many hooks and they’re not doing enough strengthening on the rear delts, keeping the poster structures as strong. So what you’ll start to see is two things. One, your Pec minor and humerus will start to rotate that inward. And then also because it rotates the humerus inward we’re now we start to get through impingement so that can actually lead to major issues and major pain. And then unfortunately what happens a lot of times is they don’t have a therapist or a doctor around that the fight game that understands fighters. And so they’ll just order an MRI and they’ll find some silent tear, like a partial tear of your rotator cuff or your labor. Which by the way, about 90% of people that have never had shoulder pain have those because they don’t understand the research. And so they pull them from a fight or whatever else. And Savannah missing fights, which sucks for the fans. It sucks for them making money. And I think it’s really important as a clinician to be able to understand the actual fight game.
Corey Beasley [00:03:27]: Yeah, of course it does. I mean these guys are guys are banged up all the time, right? If they wrestled or did anything like that when they were young? They probably got a laundry list of stuff like me.
Beau Hightower [00:03:38]: So like all of us I’m sure. But the question is it truly relevant to the fight game? And I don’t want to take a shot at some of these other camps, but there’s a couple of camps I’m sure you can think of that comes to mind. And my guess is they’ve got to have some orthopedic surgeon or somebody they go to that doesn’t understand the fight game that continuously pulls them from the fight and scares them more than they need to be scared. And then they ended up pulling out a fight. If you look at Jackson wink, MMA history, particularly in the UFC, we lost cowboy Cerrone to a staph infection. But other than that we had Michelle Waterson who had a broken hand, but we’ve only lost that one fight in almost three years. And you think about how many fighters we have on the Jackson wink roster to injury alone and sickness. It could be some other things they pull from a fight, but from an actual injury. That’s it. That’s all we’ve had.
Corey Beasley [00:04:27]: That’s great. Now from your perspective and experience dealing with all these different fighters out there in New Mexico. When you kind of came in and got involved, what were some of the big rocks, sort to speak, that we’re keeping those kids from being beat up. What are some things that changed over time?
Beau Hightower [00:04:47]: Yeah, so one of the things we want it to initiate right away was prehab routines. So we want to make sure that they’re doing the right things in their warm-up. Now most of these guys have their normal jiu jitsu routines, their spider walking and all this other stuff too. But we wanted to make sure that they have the PVC pipes and lacrosse balls to do some self-mile faster work to before they train, before they workout. So that was probably the biggest thing just to start off with because if you’re already tight and you’re going to throw a head kick or whatever else, you’re setting yourself up for an adductor tear, you’re setting yourself up for injury and making sure that they’re doing that every single workout. It’s not just the once a day, it’s making sure you’re ready to actually train, especially as they get older.
Corey Beasley [00:05:26]: Of course he had the miles add up pretty quick so that the prehab, the warm-up from your perspective, what other kind of things changed as far as, is there anything with schedule, with volume of communication with other coaches, anything like that?
Beau Hightower [00:05:40]: Yeah, so one of the things we try to do is we try to streamline all the processes. Now we don’t have an official strength to get a certain coach, so we have a lot of our fighters going to different places around town. We’ve got some really great trainers around. Lawrence Herrera is one of them. Jared Saavedra is one of them. The folks over at turning point do a great job. The folks at elevate, you’ve probably seen a lot of these folks on countdown and road to the octagon and they all have a little bit of different training styles. But what we want as a clear communication between myself, the trainer, Greg Jackson, Mike Winkeljohn, and we want to make sure that we’re all on the same page. In the past we didn’t necessarily have that medical input and so sometimes there wasn’t somebody to basically cross communicate. And sometimes we speak a little bit different language too. So the trainer may have a different idea of what they want out of that goal for that fight and the coach may have a different idea and they may think they’re communicating. But having that third person, how basically translate, I think that helps a lot, especially when you give a true medical perspective and say, listen, this might be our goal, but this might be the consequence. So I do too much running and your knees are starting to wear out. Now you’re not getting the most out of your sparring or whatever that might be.
Corey Beasley [00:06:47]: Well, you kind of have a 40,000 for these so to speak. You’ve seen, what they doing skill wise you see what they’re doing strength wise, now are you kind of navigating all of this or kind of guiding everybody a little bit?
Beau Hightower [00:07:02]: I’m more of the kind of the counselor. I’m not guiding them necessarily. But generally speaking, Greg or wink or Brandon Gibson or even as these, some of these guys will come to me in the last meeting based on these training, if they’re not seeing the performance they want out of somebody in a certain given area, what we need to take away or what are we missing out on? So even looking at, all the other things aside with John Jones, he has a really great power lifting coach over the NFP. But we had to kind of tinker that back because some of that was good, but we also didn’t want them getting so bulky that we were losing cardio as well. So they do a really great job of building strength with him. But of course we as a team need to taper that back and find the sweet spots where we’re doing the right amount of anaerobic training, the right amount of aerobic training and making sure that we’re not over-training where you get to the fight healthy and sharp.
Corey Beasley [00:07:54]: Now are you doing any testing with these guys?
Beau Hightower [00:07:57]: Yeah, we do quite a bit of testing. We’ll do a Goniometer testing when you sit and reach. One of the big things we’ve worked on with some fighters recently that we’re trying to keep tabs on his hip mobility. And what we find is over the years, if they’re not doing enough stretching, if they’re not doing enough of the mobility issues, their head kicks and their kicks will start to decrease in height and the velocity will decrease as well. So if you don’t keep the hip mobility up, you know the thing and the kicks, you might be able to connect them and you’re 25 when you’re 35 you’re with all the little micro tears and all the scar tissue and all the damage you’ve had, you’re not going to get there. And so we’re losing out on efficiency and power even if we don’t keep that up. Some use our standard tools, Goniometer and a sit and reach and some of those things to make sure that we can actually see the changes that are happening in the muscle length and the tension.
Corey Beasley [00:08:44]: Very cool. I mean you mentioned your shoulders earlier. What are some other common things that you see in pretty consistently some from your athletes’ just injury wise they all meant little things that can be avoided. They’re coming to you because they’re in pain, I imagine, right?
Beau Hightower [00:09:03]: Yeah, absolutely. One of the big ones, I mean, lower back pain. I mean that’s ubiquitous across our culture in general. But anybody who grapples is going to deal with some amount of lower back pain from being folded up, from being in guard, from being in a lot of different positions that you’re put into that put pressure on your back. So that takes a lot of work and making sure that we keep the fashion moving properly. But one of the interesting things I’ve been seeing lately is you see a lot of LCL tears in these athletes, particularly from going to mission control or going to the high guard. They’re pulling on their foot to try to get their foot in the right position during grappling. One of the issues there is that they’re growing muscles, like say their Sartorius and their glute muscles are loose enough. They’re not turning their femur enough to get to that position to start with. And so they’re forcing all the motion of the knee and then eventually it’s physics. What happens is the LCL will pop and give out. So we’ve had a lot of fighters that have actually fought in fights with torn LCLs. But sure it’d be a lot easier if they would just do the mobility work up front to keep that from happening. So I’ll get all that are listening. If you, if you’re a grappler, if you do BJJ, if you don’t want to have an LTL tear when you’re in guard, make sure you’re keeping your glutes loose, make sure you keeping your abductors loose, make sure you’re keeping your Sartorius loose.
Corey Beasley [00:10:09]: So you guys implemented, you guys implemented that new prehab and warm-up stuff. Is there anything else that you guys utilize out there that kind of a try to decrease the risk so to speak was what these kids are doing?
Beau Hightower [00:10:25]: So what we tried to implement as something that’s more typical of say a NCAA program or even the UFC performance. And so we actually beat them to this. We are offices inside of Jackson Wink, so I can wash a lot of the sparring and we treat the general public too. But we’ve got all the equipment in there. We’ve got decompression machines, we’ve got [hydroxy liters]. We’ve got hot packs, cold packs, East them, ultrasounds, we’ve got all of the self-mobility exercise equipment in there. We’ve got we’ve got microwave, we got a laser. So we’ve got all these things available that they can use to warm up, like an NFL player or a college athlete have, most MMA gyms don’t have any of that kind of stuff. And so even though they’re fighting at the highest level, they’re not being treated in that way. And we feel like that’s a really important aspect, making sure that the tissues warm, making sure if they’re tight, they have someone that can roll them out right away and make sure they can come in and get on the equipment. We can use the NormaTec immediately afterwards. So we want to have that in a more professional environment. That’s definitely something that’s helped a lot. Also, our assessments are a lot different and if any of you guys follow us on social media the Instagram is Dr. Beau Hightower. We use some different tools and we’re always just trying to find the method that works the best. And so you’ll see some hammers and chisels and belt structures and things like that. And we’re just trying to get the bones and the muscles to communicate more effectively. Because here’s the thing if my shoulders already internally rotated I can’t generate any power into extra rotation because my external rotators already overstretched along muscles, a weak muscle also, I can’t internally rotate more because I’m already there so I’m impinged on the other side. So we take very serious, our links, central relationships from anterior to posterior compartments and we’re looking for balance.
Corey Beasley [00:12:06]: Right on. And I’m sure it’s a constant battle with a lot of these guys?
Beau Hightower [00:12:09]: Always. I mean it’s a battle for us just regular life. If you’re training all the time too, I mean it’s a completely different set of exercises and skillsets these folks have. MMA is crazy cause he really, you’re combining five or six sports and now you’ve got boxing and you’ve got muay thai and you’ve got jiu jitsu and wrestling and everything else there. And then plus you’ve got to do your strength conditioning as well. And how do we do those in a way that we’re not losing efficiency. We’re not over-training. We’re not getting injured.
Corey Beasley [00:12:39]: Yeah, absolutely. That’s cool that you, you kind of mentioned it before and I was going to bring it up. But I know in a lot of guys that go to different therapy type clinics, a lot of these guys, like you said, they don’t have it in house. They’re going to go out to somebody else’s clinic. And we see a lot of common things that we’re guys are getting ice or heat or cryotherapy or a cupping and all these different things, is there a time and a place for each one of these types of modalities or it seems to be like when you go and you kind of getting all of them?
Beau Hightower [00:13:10]: There should be a time and a place for all of those things. If you look at the research, all of them have some level of clinical application. But unfortunately most clinicians just like coaches can be in the same thing. You just give the same thing to everybody. And that’s inappropriate for a medical care that’s inappropriate for strength conditioning. Everybody’s an individual and they’re at a different time of the day. So cupping is the big trend now. Everybody cups everything and that’s a really lazy thing to do if you don’t know anything else to do. So what cupping does is it can create stretch in the fashion. It can, it can create some stretch through the fascia, underneath the skin, and also between the layer of the deeper muscles as well. So that can be effective, when you don’t want somebody to be sourced. So for the Olympics for example, the only reason they used it there is because they couldn’t do any deep tissue because they didn’t want them to be sore because they had to perform the next day. So like just in the same way, we shouldn’t be doing a lot of deep tissue work with them three or four days of a fight because we don’t want to decrease explosiveness because you have to understand that deep tissue work, it does turn the muscle off. So it does decrease your ability to create explosive power that’s a truism. That’s a fact. We can’t be doing that before. I need to create power. That’s the bad idea. So that fascia work can come in handy in those instances. So in these folks, lower back, upper neck, it’s not bad but it has to be done with motion. You have to be moving with it. You can’t just put cups on there and leave them there and expect it to do anything. You know, dry needling has this application in certain areas. If you’ve got really stingy muscles that won’t release with soft tissue work, that’s when needling may be appropriate, just in the same aspect, you wouldn’t ice somebody right before they go train because we’re not immune to the laws of physics. If we’re crystallizing and making that soft tissue work harder, that’s more likely to tear. So when you see these other clinics, they may not understand science per se. I saw one UFC champion recently that has a structural problem from a fight. He knows that the structural problem, but for some reason he’s getting cupped and needles in that area every single day, which isn’t going to change the structural issue that he has. And in fact, if he continues to turn those muscles off more, he won’t have the ability to stabilize the joint. So if my delts would isn’t strong enough to hold my shoulder in place, I’m going to get hurt worse because I can’t hold that humorous into the socket.
Corey Beasley [00:15:57]: Yeah. I mean, it makes sense. It makes complete sense when you understand what’s happening. I think for a lot of these people and me included, a lot of things, there’s so many different methods and things we can have access to these days. And that comes out on a pretty consistent basis knowing what’s good, what’s bad and what’s hype is kind of a question mark for a lot of people.
Beau Hightower [00:15:52]: And in the social media age, you don’t want to get left behind either. So I feel like a lot of these folks, they don’t want to have everybody else doing it and then not do it. So before they understand the actual physiological concepts, so even the research and advocacy behind it, they go ahead and start implementing and go, well everyone else is doing it. It must not increase somebody’s risk of injury or I must not do X, Y, and Z. You know, just in the same way that I have a chiropractic background, I probably don’t adjust manually more than 10% of my fighters simply for the fact that they’ve already got so many structural lesions in there that I’m actually probably more risk of injuring them worse than actually helping them. And we’ve seen that before with our fighters. We’ve seen them get herniated discs from the next getting cranked on too hard from chiropractors and from things like that. So we always ask them and most of our guys have been to other places and we kind of ask them what works for them, what does, and then we kind of tailor our treatment around that. So if somebody has had a bad experience Greg Jackson, for example, had a chiropractor that adjusted his neck and it actually herniated a disc in his neck and caused him to lose muscles, strength in his arm. So obviously we’re never going to do any manipulation on him. Now there are some fighters that they know that they respond well to that. So say maybe 20% of people respond well to that. Well, if somebody knows they’re in that 20 percentile, then we’re going to go in and give them that treatment. So like Tom Duquesnoy for example, Diego Sanchez, there’s a few people that like manipulation even if it’s just a band aid. So if as long as we think that they’re not at risk for it, making them worse, we’re going to go ahead and do that for them. Just because that’s a tool doesn’t mean you give that to every single person that comes in. Just like you wouldn’t use [00:17:32] on every single person. You wouldn’t manipulate every single person just as strength and conditioning coach, you wouldn’t do box jumps with every single person. There’s some people that they can handle that and some people it’s going to put them more risk of injury or it’s going to defeat the purpose of what we’re doing.
Corey Beasley [00:17:50]: Yeah, absolutely. Now for people that are listening, they don’t have a lot of maybe a doctor or somebody like that that’s helping them with this aspect of their training. What are some like low tech things that people can maybe implement to help with their training? And then would they maybe use that like hot and cold or something simple?
Beau Hightower [00:18:11]: And some of this is controversial too. If you look at the research on hot and cold there’s not a whole lot of research that shows that either actually do a whole lot. And in fact some of the research is actually showing that on acute injuries that maybe we should actually be heating them first because what we’re finding out is that we don’t actually think that ice affects the inflammation process at all either dose heat it just changes the vascular supply, meaning that you’re just slowing down blood flow or keeping it out. So ice can be analgesic if you’ve been around anything for a period of time, here’s the isms until we 100% know better, we’re going to kind of stick with us for now. Heat before is going to help keep the tissue more mobile, more plastic. It’ll give us the ability to stretch more without tearing. Ice afterwards can help with pain. It can help with analgesia. So generally speaking, you want to ice when you’re done for the day and you want to heat before other activities. Simplistic things that you can do that are really cheap. I’m a huge fan of TheraBand activation so you can tie a TheraBand to anything in your house and work on your rotator cuff strengthening. You can work on your scapular stabilization, you can tie in the loop and do monster walks and strengthen your gluteus medius and do hip extensions. So if you don’t have access to a gym or access to anybody else, those are really simplistic ways to make sure that you’re keeping muscles that are really important, strong. You know, most people know how to do crunches and pushups and all those things, but that’s not necessarily the case with say, rotator cuff strengthening or neck strength thing. So bands can be a very cost effective and easy way to strengthen muscles without putting yourself in danger.
Corey Beasley [00:19:44]: Good stuff. So Beau, is there any other thing like as far as combat sports world goes, is there other things that like as far as manipulating training schedules? Like how often are you guys training over there typically, like as far as the athlete’s schedule?
Beau Hightower [00:20:08]: So here’s the thing is when push comes to shove, at the end of the day, this sport is unique in a way that is not like any other sports. That head coach isn’t the head coach in the same way of it is I’m on the football team. So at the end of the day, the fighter can make any decision they want to. So some of them we don’t want to make them upset. We want to help them kind of work around what they’re used to. So we’ve got some folks that train five, six times a day. I’m not a huge fan of it, but what am I going to do about it? We’re just going to try to optimize the best we can. We’ve got some fighters that only train AM and they said they spend the whole am or PM resting. We’ve got a few folks to do that. So our general training schedule around here is we generally speaking every day there’s a 9:00 AM so it’s either sparring or grappling or whatever else. And usually there’s another class at five. Most of the folks are doing the strengthening conditioning somewhere in between there, maybe noon or one ish and taking a nap and resting in between those. So that’s kind of the general way things are done. Again, because we don’t have an official strength conditioning coach a lot of it comes back to each individual strength conditioning coach and then also the input of the athlete. And in MMA and UFC, the athletes kind of calling the shots. So there’s a lot of strength and conditioning coach out there that ended up sitting there by themselves because they get no showed as I’m sure all you that are listening are familiar with.
Corey Beasley [00:21:26]: Cool. I really appreciate you taking time. I know you’re out here at UFC gym and you’re a busy man, but for everybody just wanting to get a hold of you or learn more about what you’re doing where’s the best place for them to do that?
Beau Hightower [00:21:39]: Yeah, you can email me. It’s Dr.Hightower@elite-osm.com and you can find me on Twitter. DrBeauHightower and on Instagram its Dr.BeauHightower. And I post a lot of different exercises, self-mile fascia techniques and I try to get a lot of research on there too, just for people to kind of keep up with it. And one of my big things is dispelling common myths that maybe there’s not a whole lot of science or even logic behind. And like I always tell people our biggest techniques here, you can go to a weekend seminar, you can learn whatever acronym in the world, but if you’re not a logical problem solver, none of that’s going to help you at all. Every protocol is essentially worthless if you don’t have somebody that’s capable of problem solving for the individual. It’s just another tool. It’s another lens that you can look at, which is great. But the truth is there is no truth, there is no specific type of training. You’re not just going to do kettlebell training and that’s it. And you’re not just going to do power lifting and that’s it. In the same sense, you’re also not just going to learn like I said, whatever acronyms, soft tissue techniques, stretching technique or whatever else, and that’s the end all be all. Science is always changing and you always have to keep your eye open. So one thing that I always encourage everybody to do is question everybody, including myself. The merits should stand on themselves. So as a strength and conditioning coach, as a clinician, as an athlete, what you need to do is test and retest and you need to check measurable. And then you need to create your own philosophies and understand the biological premises of why you’re doing it. So you have to test something and see if it actually works. You have your theory, you have this beautiful theory, test it. If it seems like it’s doing well, then you have to see if it’s reproducible. And then once you have that experience, you can start to apply it to different body types, different size fighter. So just in the same way, you wouldn’t train a heavyweight the same you would as a fly weight only experience can get you there. So keep learning, keep growing, but always test yourself and ask yourself, am I actually doing this the right way? And be willing to look in the mirror and say, you know what? I was wrong on that. I’m going to change this and I’m going to do better, not only for myself, but for my athletes.
Corey Beasley [00:23:36]: That’s good info. Really good advice. So guy, I’ll definitely put that with his social links and stuff like that down below. So you guys have access to that and Beau thanks again for joining us. I appreciate your time.
Beau Hightower [00:23:49]: Enjoyed it. I appreciate it.